Big Bill

Damn I had forgotten what a damn good speaker Bill Clinton is.  I just figured I’d watch 5 minutes before I worked on the DVR queue– as a rule, political speeches do pretty much nothing for me– but here I am 45 minutes later and wow, that was awesome.  Obama may be better as a pure orator, but when it comes to being a pure politician, wow, it’s hard to beat Bill Clinton.

Substance-wise, I really loved they way he so directly took on the pervasive Republican lies about Medicare and welfare.   I liked that he was almost going for an innoculation approach by explaining clearly how Republicans are lying and just suggesting that you really cannot believe anyof their attacks against Obama.  Basically, working really hard to push the theme of Republicans as untrustworthy liars.  Given the Romney campaign of late– we don’t need no stinkin’ fact checkers– this theme has a real chance of sticking.  And, we saw the damage that did to Al Gore (a theme I’ll revisit in the morning’s post).   Plenty of great arguments from Clinton worth mentioning, but the direct and thorough rebuttal of the lies really stuck out for me.

Now, does all this make Obama more likely to be elected.  Probably not.  But, then again,  if it does help to shape the media narrative, yes.  That was about as strong an argument as you could make for Obama’s re-election.

Photo of the day

From an Alan Taylor set on the Paralympics.  I would love to watch wheelchair fencing:

Members of the British Paralympic Fencing Team, from left, David Heaton, Craig McCann and Simon Wilson, during a photoshoot on August 19, 2012 in Nottingham, England. (Jan Kruger/Getty Images for Beazley’s)


Chart of the day

Via Tyler Cowen:

Wow– textbook prices up more than medical prices.  And I dare say medical technology has improved more than textbook quality.  This presumably does not take into account, though, that tons of books are purchased used. So many, in fact, that publishers publish new editions far more often than they need to and charge more, to make up for all those used books.

What to eat?

1) Not pork.  Okay, I love my barbecue to much to give this up, but I must admit to being quite conflicted by my love of pork– far more than for any other meat.  I come to this oddly enough, via an article about consciousness I read yesterday evening after, by random chance, listening to different podcasts about consciousness yesterday morning.  This Slate piece about moves into the area of consciousness in animals and its implications:

More pertinent for ethics is the scientific exploration of whether other animals have advanced forms of consciousness, such as self-awareness. This can be tested using the mirror test: A spot of paint is placed on an animal’s face, and it is then presented with a mirror. Many animals will simply attack or try to escape from the apparent foe in the mirror, but a select few will recognize themselves, as demonstrated by them trying to remove or at least examine the strange spot. The current list of animals that clearly pass this test includes chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas, dolphins, elephants, pigs (on a modified version of the test), and even magpies.

Well damn.  Pigs are the only animals on that list we actually eat.  Bor continues:

Consequently, I am a vegetarian, as are several prominent consciousness researchers. I believe it would be ethically consistent for us to extend our own rights to life and freedom from torture to any species that can recognize itself in the mirror, show clear metacognition, or even demonstrate extensive tool use. Barring all these animals from the food industry and passing laws to protect them based on their consciousness would be a radical step and not one that I can see any political leader advocating anytime soon. Nevertheless, it would be a consistent and caring departure from the way much of society currently views animals, and it would acknowledge the advances in our scientific understanding of the mental lives of these other species.

I have to say, I pretty much agree with that.  Let’s hope they’re making fast progress on that fake meat that actually tastes good.

2) Big news about some research that finds organic food is not actually any healthier for you.   But, that’s not actually the point.  I buy a fair amount of organic food because: 1) all else being equal, less potentially harmful chemicals in my body, the better, but more so, 2) what Brian Fung writes for the Atlantic:

For all the attention devoted to the ways organic is better for you, we should remember thatorganic began chiefly as an argument about the environment. From the agency’s perspective, to buy organic is to respect the land your food came from. It means taking pains to ensure that your farms remain bountiful and productive, even decades from now. The case is one part self-interest over the long term, and one part a statement of ethics. Not really what you’d expect from a mechanical bureaucratic institution.

Buying organic is also a statement about public health. Nowhere is this clearer than in the case of antibiotics. Conventional farms have been putting the stuff in animal feed for decades — even though we’ve known since the 1970s about the health hazards that the animal use of antibiotics poses for humans. Reducing society’s chances of inadvertently creating a superbug is a good reason to purchase organic foods…

And then there’s the reason many people find most compelling of all: the health of workers in the field. For some consumers, buying organic is a human-rights issue. Reading Atlantic contributor Barry Estabrook’sTomatoland on the ruinous health problems of tomato planters and pickers in Florida because of the use of herbicides and pesticides is enough to make almost anyone choose organic over non-organic.

Short version: even if organic is not good for your health, it is definitely good for the health of the planet and that of other humans.  And yes, I did buy $12 worth of organic apples yesterday.

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